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Lib Dem big-hitter Hughes joins the campaign to save the country house

The Liberal Democrats' candidate for mayor has joined the growing band of MPs supporting the AJ's campaign to save the PPG 7 country house clause.

Simon Hughes, the MP for Bermondsey and former front runner in the race to replace Paddy Ashdown, has signed the AJ's Early Day Motion, which calls on the deputy prime minister to retain the planning exception.

Other MPs already signed up include former architecture minister Alan Howarth; former culture secretary Chris Smith;

chair of the All-Party Built Environment Group, Peter Luff;

and veteran right-winger Teddy Taylor. The total number of signatories has now reached 45.

Amid growing signs that the government is about to reconsider its position, Hughes told the AJ he believes it is highly important that the country house tradition continues.

'The criteria set out in PPG 7 have been designed to give planning committees and their advisers the chance to make decisions that are driven by design and quality, ' he said. 'This way each generation would have the opportunity to add to the tradition of the country house, which has done so much to enhance the English countryside, and gives the opportunity to make up for the loss of more than 1,500 stately homes over the last century.

'Yet the tradition will grind to a halt if the government succeeds in its intention to abolish the current planning guidance, ' he added.

The Early Day Motion's cosponsor Alan Howarth welcomed Hughes' signature, adding that the government is 'really beginning to sit up and take note'.

'I am pleased that Simon has agreed to sign up and that the number of MPs that support the campaign continues to grow.

What really makes an impact is the strong crossparty support, ' he said.

'All the indications are that the government is quite impressed by this representation and may well be in the mood to reconsider, ' he added.

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